How-to-Blind-Cyclops Instructions [Winner of the 2015 Norton Girault Prize]

by Jeffrey Beck

If you’ve never twirled a burning olive stave
into the bloodshot eye of a wine-soused Cyclops,

think of your father drunk on Wild Turkey, propped
on a door frame, in his boxer shorts, his face ablaze

with the glow of planting bleeding eggplants
into your mother’s cellulite.  That might do it.

Wait ‘til he props his back blades firm on the jamb,
and jiggle him another shot—and another after that.

Wait more ‘til he stares blind-drunk, his mouth
dumb-open, his hair tousled as a frowsy bed

in a cheap hotel, still thinking of taking another
shot at her, or two, but paralyzed in cave-spin,

trapped in blear-glass walls. Then bead your eyes
into needle points: bead eyes hard, as this point

is deadly. Purse your mouth in grim smirk:
balance tip-toe on his high foot-top, left knee

poised above his knee, and with two bead-eye thugs
behind, resembling your brothers, arch the hot point

down hard and twist into the blood-steaming hole.
Smirk like nobody as you hear the crackle.



About “How-to-Blind-Cyclops Instructions” Judge Natalie Diaz said:Beginning with the title and continuing into the first three lines of the poem, this poet is building a personal mythology. The gigantic myth of becomes small, Cyclops becomes intimate, becomes our own drunk, vulnerable, father glowing in his boxers with an all too familiar violence. The geography of the myth artfully changes, not just in place but in language also. The father is compared to a bed in a cheap hotel, and he is blind-drunk, his mouth dumb-open, his hair frowsy, and paralyzed in cave-spin. The hyphens are part of this new lexicon spoken in these bleary hours. We think we are surprised when we move into the final act of violence, the moment the hot point of the olive stave is twisted down into the Cyclops’ / father’s eye, but we realize that this is the same violence the poem began with, the same violence the father visited on the mother. This well crafted cycle works almost like a Mobius strip because it forces we readers back through the entire poem again and again.



Jeffrey Beck’s poetry has been published in Miramar, River Styx, Worcester Review, Naugatuck River Review, I-70 Review, Cold Mountain Review, and other journals. The author and editor of four books of prose, he is working on his first book of poetry, tentatively titled, Travel Kit for Odyssey.